By Andrew Berstein | Forbes | Aug. 21, 2012
Toxic drugs destroy lives. No rational person wants to kill himself on drugs—or witness innocent others kill themselves in similar manner.
The first step of a rational, morally proper, and effective war on drugs is to fully legalize all drugs for consenting adults.
The government’s attempt to prevent drug use by legal prohibition is, morally and practically, a disaster. Full legalization will end this disaster and make possible a war on drugs both morally upright and practically effective.
Coercively preventing a consenting adult from ingesting his drug(s) of choice is a manifest violation of an individual’s right to his own life and body. The personal use—or sale—of drugs by or between consenting adults involves no initiation of force or fraud against innocent others; consequently, is not a crime. Currently, thousands of U.S. citizens are in prison for mere possession, use, or sale of banned drugs—and the sole crime is the government’s initiation of force against innocent individuals.
Such flagrantly immoral governmental policy leads to flagrantly impractical results.
For example, in 2010 the government spent $48 billion on its anti-drug crusade; between 1993 and 2003, roughly $180 billion. The result? According to the government’s 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 22 million Americans, aged 12 or older, use illegal drugs. Overall rate of drug use was up almost a full percentage point over the 2008 survey. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget said in understatement: “DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] is unable to demonstrate its progress in reducing the availability of illegal drugs in the U.S.”
Over decades, the government’s war on drugs has incarcerated thousands of U.S. individuals innocent of initiating force or fraud—and robbed hundreds of billions of dollars from productive taxpayers; it has perpetrated all these crimes—and accomplished nothing.
There are reasons necessitating such failure. If substance X is in demand, i.e., desired by many who can afford it, then money can be made supplying it. If X is legal, it is supplied by honest businessmen; if illegal, by criminals. Either way, X is supplied. No government can repeal the laws of economics.
But the full truth is vastly worse—for the state’s war on drugs is responsible for an enormous increase in violent crime. For one thing, it makes criminal drug cartels immensely wealthy. Bloody gang warfare inevitably erupts as rival thugs vie for control of locales assuring profitable sales. The result is an endless string of murders, including of innocent victims caught in the crossfire.
Further, the government’s war deploys finite law enforcement assets to incarcerate drug users, drawing them away from pursuit of murderers, rapists, armed robbers—and terrorists.
Does it make sense to spend $48 billion annually to prevent American adults from using drugs, when fanatical jihadists seek to obliterate U.S. cities? Morally, is it right to leave U.S. citizens more vulnerable to terrorist assault, so that drug users may be incarcerated?
A full legalization of drugs eliminates such depredations and results in substantial moral and practical benefits.
Morally, such a policy protects the inalienable right of each consenting adult to choose for himself which substances, if any, he will ingest. The coercive power of the state to violate individual rights is, on this issue, prohibited. The sacred cause of freedom is advanced.
Practically, drugs can then be sold in non-pharmaceutical drug stores, as liquor is sold in liquor stores. Honest businessmen will supply drugs, as they do alcohol and cigarettes. No clandestine smuggling is required, so criminal gangs are disenfranchised. Their source of wealth and power is thereby depleted. In the absence of enormous wealth generated by illicit drug smuggling, their services will not be replicated upon their incarceration or execution. Smart, tough, honest DEA agents can be re-trained and deployed against jihadists, not squandered in an attempt to prevent American adults from ingesting drugs. Roughly $50 billion annually can be added to the budget to protect Americans from terrorists.
Most important, repeal of the immoral-impractical war on drugs makes possible a war both moral and practical.
If honest men sincerely desire to curtail drug use in America, the most important thing they can do is live a drug-free life. As a clean liver, a healthy man can proceed to achieve a life of shining value achievement. He can realize himself in education, career, romance, children, friends, physical fitness, travel, etc. He can fill his existence with life-promoting, not life-destroying values. He can set a positive example, accessible to all with eyes to see, of what a healthy, happy, drug-free life looks like.
Based on such a life, a clean liver is free to use rational persuasion to reach any individual within his purview with a single unrelenting message: healthy, life-promoting values are the meaning of life. Rational values produce flourishing life; toxic drugs produce premature death. A clean liver thereby appeals to the best within men: their reasoning mind. He respects their right of choice. Rather than coerce them, he reasons with them. In deeds, he is a paragon of value achievement; in words, a lofty spokesman for it.
Men will make their choices regardless of governmental policy. To assure life-enhancing—not life-destroying choices, it is necessary to deal with men not coercively, but rationally.
Andrew Bernstein is the author of The Capitalist Manifesto, Capitalism Unbound, and, most recently, Capitalist Solutions. He is also contributing editor to “The Objective Standard.” His website is: www.andrewbernstein.net